- Why does The Definitive C++ Book Guide and List get a pass, but I can't ask my own book recommendation question?
- Can I ask my own book recommendation question in a way that is acceptable to the community, like the C++ book list question?
The big problem with book recommendation posts - and similar questions - is that they tend to devolve into polls:
For me, and I think I speak for many others, the only time you really know you’re looking at a poll is when you see those one-line answers. But we can only close questions. Is it always the fault of the questioner that the answers suck? Do they deserve all the blame for the fact that people with nothing useful to say want to participate anyway and bring their reddit-style “tweets” into the answers?
That's a quote from a quote from Real Questions Have Answers, a blog post that heralded a revised FAQ and a much tighter focus on questions that can be constructively, usefully answered. The relevant message there, ensconced in the FAQ on every site, is this:
... avoid asking subjective questions where …
- every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
- there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
Note that it is possible to have a question that asks for a list of things that does solve a real problem and doesn't treat every answer as valid. But it is very, very hard, and most questions of that sort degrade badly over time.
Why does this question get a pass, but I can't ask my own book recommendation question?
That question gets a pass because it solves a real problem identified by many - perhaps most - people in Stack Overflow's C++ community.
Can I ask my own book recommendation question in a way that is acceptable to the community, like the C++ book list question?
Probably not. If you have to ask, almost certainly not. That said, here are a few guidelines if you wish to attempt it anyway:
Identify your problem: "I'm looking for a good book to read on X" probably won't fly. Have you seen Amazon? They've built an amazing system for categorizing and rating books on just about every topic you can imagine. If you're looking for a book recommendation here, you'd better start with a clear description of why Amazon failed you.
Be specific: describe the type of information you're looking to garner. The C++ question isn't asking for every C++ book ever published. They're looking for the cream of the crop, and most importantly, they're looking for answers that explain why.
Be part of a healthy community willing to curate and update the results: Look at the revision history for that C++ question. See how they keep it updated? That's important, and you're not going to do it by yourself.
Be willing to fight for it: Again, look at that revision history. Chances are, folks are going to try to shut your question down. Be prepared to defend it, and calmly, clearly rebut charges that it is not constructive. This will be a lot easier if you're also part of that healthy community dedicated to keeping it up-to-date.
Sound hard? Like too much work to bother with? You're probably right, and that's the idea - when these things aren't hard-won labors of love, they quickly become dung heaps of obsolete and spammy no-content responses. If it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well.
Given the (high) degree to which almost all programming depends upon books (online resources are rarely a complete substitute), what should probably be done is every tag wiki should have a tab (or some other convenient way to access a section) devoted to the book list for that subject.
I should probably add, however, that it would probably be perfectly fine/sensible for the tab/section to be named something relatively generic like "resources" instead of being specifically a "book list". There may be some languages, libraries, tools, etc., for which online resources really are good/useful/preferred, and I certainly have no intent to discriminate against such cases.
There is a great need to have a list of most useful resources here.
However, we have tag wikis and we have StackOverflow blog, so such resouce lists should belong there.
I vote for locking that book recommendation question and moving the resouce list to the tag wiki or to the special blog entry.